Our speaker for our Centre for African Art and Archaeology last night was Akin Ogundiran from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. His talk outlined his work on the expansion of the Oyo empire of southern Nigeria in the past few centuries.
Prior to the talk, Sam and I had a happy while showing him some of our pottery and the handful of beads we have from the last season’s excavation. Akin confirmed that many of the beads are, as suspected, lantana, a sort of jasper which occurs in mines close to our research area (I was told of one when working in Parc W). Lately Olivier and I have been reading up on this stone (see for example this book) and I look forward to hearing his forthcoming paper on the circulation of this material. It is certainly interesting (though actually probably not surprising) that the material made it to Oyo. These beads are quite common. Akin’s pottery from Oyo is remarkably fine – the sherds he showed us were thoroughly burnished and decorated with incisions and a very small twisted cord roulette. He tells us that the colonisation of the landscape by Oyo is readily visible through the appearance of this particular pottery type.
I look forward to more exciting discussions at the African archaeology meeting in Cambridge this week-end. I’m introducing a session on Sunday which deals with ‘Connections’. There are six papers with a wide geographical spread and a general aim to show how African communities were connected to other parts of the continent or other parts of the world. A fast-moving scene, so look out for the conference publication in due course.